Snoring is the loud, harsh sound that results when tissues in the back of your throat vibrate while you sleep. It happens when air can't move freely through your upper airway. The effect makes the throat and nasal tissue vibrate and make the sound of "sawing wood," the term often used to describe snoring.

Snoring can be harmless and have little impact on your quality of sleep. You may not even know you snore until someone else complains that the telltale noise is disturbing their sleep.

However, snoring can also be linked to health problems like obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that can make you stop breathing while you sleep. Snoring linked to this problem can cause symptoms such as morning headaches, daytime sleepiness, and a dry, sore throat.

Chronic snoring should be assessed by a healthcare provider. Treatment may include lifestyle changes like weight loss, oral devices worn during sleep, or surgery to correct problems like swollen tonsils.

This article explains the common symptoms of snoring. It also covers common causes, how they're treated, and when you should seek medical advice.


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Symptoms of Snoring

Snoring occurs when your airway is obstructed during sleep. The symptoms you experience from snoring reflect your body's responses to the reduced amount of airflow. Common symptoms of snoring include:

  • Feelings of fatigue during the day
  • Unrefreshing or restless sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Sore throat after sleep
  • Personality change to include more irritability and moodiness
  • Feelings of confusion during night awakenings
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Problems with memory, concentration, and attention span
  • Breathing pauses in sleep, as seen by others
  • Awakening from sleep by choking or gasping

How Do I Know If I Snore?

You may not even know you snore if your snoring doesn't bother your sleep pattern. If you have symptoms, ask your bed partner or housemate if they've heard snoring or pauses in your breathing when you sleep. If you live alone, set up a recording device to record the sounds you make while you sleep.

Causes of Snoring

Snoring can occur as an acute or chronic problem. Acute snoring occurs from temporary factors like a cold or seasonal allergies. It can also happen when your throat muscles loosen and relax after drinking alcohol.

Chronic snoring occurs nightly and is caused by factors that interfere with normal breathing while you sleep.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissues and muscles at the top of your throat relax and collapse when you sleep. The relaxed soft tissue of your tongue, tonsils, and uvula blocks the airway and prevents normal breathing.

If the tissue blocks your airway, your body is robbed of oxygen. You react by choking or snoring loudly as you struggle to resume breathing.

While the breathing lapse doesn't last more than a few seconds, it can happen dozens of times every hour, causing up to 400 sleep disruptions nightly.

The following factors increase your risk of OSA because they can cause physical changes that narrow your airways:

Sleep Position

Sleeping on your back can increase your risk of snoring. When you sleep on your back, the natural force of gravity shifts the weight of your soft palate and tongue to the back of your throat. This positioning blocks precise airflow and results in the telltale sounds linked to snoring.

Research shows that people who sleep on their backs have a higher incidence of snoring vs. those who sleep on their sides, in a lateral position. Using a pillow to encourage side sleeping can reduce the severity of snoring.

Alcohol Use

Drinking alcohol, especially before bed, can increase your risk of snoring. Researchers report that alcohol contributes to the additional relaxation of muscle tone that occurs during sleep. The effect the increased obstruction in the airway, resulting in snoring and sleep apnea.

Alcohol also reduces your reaction time, so it takes longer for your body to react and recover from snoring and obstructed breathing.


While everyone reacts to medications differently, you may be contributing to your snoring by taking medications such as sleeping pills or antihistamines.

Drugs in these classes may cause the tissue in your mouth and neck to relax more than usual. When you sleep, the tissue can create a blockage, setting you up to snore. Medications that cause the mouth and tongue to be excessively dry can also contribute to snoring because the soft tissue in the throat is excessively sticky and this contributes to the the soft tissue collapsing.

How to Treat Snoring

The treatment that's best for your snoring depends on the underlying cause of your problem.

Treatment for Simple Snoring

If you suffer from simple snoring or snoring that isn't linked to OSA or another issue, you may be able to fix the problem with the following conservative treatments:

  • Change to the side (lateral) sleeping position
  • Lose weight
  • Stop alcohol use before bedtime

Treatment for Snoring Caused by OSA

If your snoring is linked to OSA, you may have to use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device while you sleep. This machine uses a face mask or nosepiece and hose to deliver a steady stream of air pressure to keep your airway open and help you breathe during sleep.

Some people with OSA can achieve this effect with one of the following oral appliances that hold your mouth to keep the airway open:

  • Mandibular protrusion splint: Moves your bottom jaw forward to keep the airway open
  • Tongue-retaining device: Prevents the tongue from blocking the airway

Treatment for Snoring Caused by Physical Malformations

When snoring is related to physical problems, you may need surgery. Some common surgical treatments include:

  • Nasal septoplasty: Nasal surgery to fix a deviated septum (the wall between your nasal passages)
  • Tonsillectomy: Surgical removal of the tonsils (soft tissue at the back of your throat)
  • Adenoidectomy: Surgical removal of the adenoids (lymph tissue in the upper airway between your nose and the back of your throat)
  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP): Surgery to open the upper airways by taking out extra tissue in the soft palate
  • Advancement genioplasty: Surgery to reshape the chin

Depending on the source of your problem, other procedures may be used to reshape or reduce areas around and on the tongue or jaw.

Complications and Risk Factors Associated With Snoring

Without treatment, snoring alone can increase your risk of other health problems like high blood pressure (hypertension). It can also prevent restful sleep and lead to sleep deprivation.

Getting less than the needed amount of sleep can increase your risk of the following problems:

While snoring is a symptom of OSA, leaving it unchecked can allow OSA to go untreated. This also increases your risk of developing the complications associated with inadequate sleep noted above.

Are There Tests to Diagnose the Cause of Snoring?

A diagnosis of snoring requires a visit to your healthcare provider, who may perform the following:

  • Getting your sleep history
  • Interviewing with your bed partner or housemate regarding your snoring
  • Examining your nose, oral cavity, and throat

When OSA is suspected, you may be referred to a sleep specialist for an overnight sleep study, or polysomnogram, in a sleep laboratory. This is the gold standard in diagnosing OSA. It records data about your heart rate, breathing, brain waves, blood oxygen levels, and leg and eye movement during sleep.

While there are home tests available, they are regarded as less accurate than tests done in a sleep lab.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Contact your healthcare provider for an examination if you have any interruption in normal breathing during sleep.

Seek medical advice if you have daytime sleepiness or notice that you can't think clearly despite a full night's sleep.Ask your sleep partner or housemate about your snoring so you can give your provider a more accurate report of your symptoms.


Snoring is a loud, constant sound that occurs as you breathe in and out. It happens when your airways are narrowed or blocked by swelling or a physical problem. While snoring alone may not be a health risk, it can prevent quality sleep. When you don't get enough sleep, you can't think clearly and make intelligent choices. You also increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health issues.

Snoring can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder that carries risks of severe physical and mental problems if untreated. You can protect your health with treatment for OSA.

Treatment for snoring requires handling the factors causing the problem. Simple cures involve changing to a side-sleeping position or losing weight. For more severe cases or those linked to OSA, you may have to wear a CPAP or oral device while you sleep. Surgery may also be needed to fix a physical problem.

A Word From Verywell

Living with a snoring problem can threaten your health if caused by OSA or another condition. Even if your snoring isn't related to a physical difficulty, it can be embarrassing to share a bed or home with others. Snoring can also interfere with their need to get quality sleep and affect their health.

If you snore or have symptoms of snoring, contact your healthcare provider to check whether you need treatment. It may take a few tries to find the right solution, but solving the problem is worthwhile.

Removing or reducing snoring can improve your sleep quality and make you feel more rested when you're awake. It can also reduce your risks of serious problems linked to poor sleep and OSA.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is snoring a problem?

    While snoring isn't a health risk alone, it may be a sign of an underlying problem like obstructive sleep apnea. A healthcare provider should diagnose snoring that interferes with your sleep or makes you stop breathing while you sleep.

  • Does my sleep position affect my snoring?

    There is evidence that sleeping on your back increases your risk of snoring. When you lie back, gravity pushes the tissues in your oral cavity toward the back of your throat. This can block your airway. Sleeping on your side reduces your risk of snoring.

  • Does my snoring mean that I have obstructive sleep apnea?

    While snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, not all snoring people have this condition. In addition to snoring, obstructive sleep apnea makes you stop breathing for short periods through the night. During these times, your body jolts you awake to resume breathing.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Anna Giorgi
Anna Zernone Giorgi is a writer who specializes in health and lifestyle topics. Her experience includes over 25 years of writing on health and wellness-related subjects for consumers and medical professionals, in addition to holding positions in healthcare communications.